Are arsonists responsible for the series of bush fires at the reforestation plantations in Buhisan Watershed and Forest Reserve?
Volunteer forest rangers suspect the fires that hit the Buhisan Watershed and Forest Reserve may be caused by arson.
Boy Clamares of Toong Volunteers Farmers Association made this assessment after putting out last Saturday, the third fire that hit the critical watershed this year.
Saturday’s bush fire damaged 18 young narra trees planted in the 2010 reforestation project of the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP).
Maria Luisa B. Largo, PBSP head of Metro Cebu Poverty Reduction Program is wondering why their plantations seem to be the “victim” of bush fires.
Toong barangay Captain Timmy Bacalso also asked the same question.
“Nganu man gyud kaha nga ang PBSP plantation man gyud ang masunog? Nagsusi pa sad mi ana nga panghitabo. Hinuon, ilawom sa teak man sad sila nananom, (Why does the PSBP plantations suffer from bush fires? We are currently investigating on the matter. Fire is inevitable though since they are planting underneath teak trees.) said Bacalso.
Bacalso though only learned of the third fire when Cebu Daily News called him about the fire.
“Wala ko kadungog nga duna diay sunog nga gamay gahapon. Amo unya ng susihon, (I did not hear about the fire yesterday (Saturday). We will look into this matter.)” Bacalso told CDN.
PO3 Virgilio Bogatan who is assigned in the area was also clueless on the third fire.
Clamares said he has strong reasons that the fires were caused by arsonists.
“Sunogon nila ang mga kahoy, aron ilang makuha unya himoong uling. Kay og sunog na daan, di naman sila dakpon, (They burn the trees, so that they can harvest it for charcoal because if it is already burned, they would not be apprehended by authorities anymore), Clamares said.
Skyrocketing prices of liquified petroleum gas (LPG) increased demand for charcoal as families stretching their budget shift to charcoal as cooking fuel.
According to Clamares, the three reported bush fires in barangay Toong have already damaged over 10,000 fruit and non-fruit trees and bushes.
The first one on April 13 damaged more than 7,000 young trees while the second on April 17 destroyed about 3,000.
Government authorities however have yet to determine if the fires were intentional as the area used to be the source of raw materials of charcoal makers.
High summer temperature may however also aggravate the risk for forest fires.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) called for vigilance against forest and bush fires especially during the summer season.
The Buhisan Watershed and Forest Reserve is part of the 28,000-hectare Central Cebu Protected Landscape.
It also hosts the Buhisan Dam which is the main source of the Metropolitan Cebu Water District. /Jessa Chrisna Marie J. Agua, Correspondent